A vintage KAVI 35 mm print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Powell and Pressburger), 23 April 2015.
The title is from Shakespeare: Oberon: "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania." (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 2, Scene 1).
The last film of the Archers belongs to the double set of war movies made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for J. Arthur Rank. The first was in Technicolor, this one is in black and white.
Ill Met by Moonlight is a film about gentlemen's war, in continuation to The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. The expression "a nightmare of horror" is heard at the start to describe the Nazi occupation of Crete, but nothing we see confirms this.
It is a true story about the kidnapping of General Kreipe, the commander of the German occupation forces at Crete. There has even been a non-fiction reconstruction of that adventure with Kreipe himself among the participants.
Shot on Mediterranean locations on the Riviera the film impresses with the black and white outdoors cinematography by Christopher Challis. The landscape is magnificent, and protective of its native inhabitants, including the resistance fighters hiding in the mountains. In the philosophy of the landscape, in the sense of the sublime, there is a continuity with Powell's films starting with The Edge of the World and including A Canterbury Tale and I Know Where I'm Going by Powell and Pressburger. Ill Met by Moonlight belongs to the realistic current of the duo.
The phases of the Moon are a visual refrain in the film.
There is also a sense of the fairytale and myth, starting with the title from A Midsummer Night's Dream and the motto from Ulysses. On Crete we stay on Mount Ida, home of the Cave of Zeus. Minos and Ariadne are evoked.
Ill Met by Moonlight is a well made war adventure film full of suspenseful moments but directed with a laid back, relaxed approach. The actors are all good but a sense of urgency is missing from this cinematic reconstruction.
The last film of the Archers was the first film of Mikis Theodorakis, already providing a warm and exhilarating score.
The vintage print shows proudly the patina of age and gives a good impression of the original VistaVision cinematography. IMDb claims the aspect ratio is 1,85:1 but it looks much better in 1,66:1. Both would be correct within the VistaVision projection practice.
OUR PROGRAMME NOTE BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK